Friday, May 23, 2008

Media Still Sloppy on Stem Cell Research

As the debate over stem cell research continues, be mindful of fudged facts.

A recent Omaha World-Herald news story about the race for the District 1 seat on the NU Board of Regents noted that candidate Tim Clare opposes embryonic stem cell research, but hadn’t decided whether he would fight it as a regent.

The story then said: “(Candidate Earl) Scudder said he supports the research and will fight to protect it if he wins. He said the board is divided on stem cell research and could elect to ban it if another opponent of such research is elected.”

Let’s get two points clear:

1. The board of regents is not divided on stem cell research. All regents support it, as does candidate Clare. The board is divided on destruction of human embryos for stem cell research.

2. Tim Clare is not trying to get on the board to shut down stem cell research. He simply opposes a subdivision of it that keeps falling further behind as the majority of stem cell research moves forward without relying on destruction of embryonic humans.

You’ll recall the recent enactment of state legislation that bans human cloning and destruction of human embryos for stem cell research at state facilities. A recent story about the legislation in the Daily Nebraskan, the student newspaper at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, called cloning "a process by which body cells are implanted into human eggs to create stem cells."

That's wrong. Cloning does not create stem cells. Cloning does not produce stem cells in a lab dish. Cloning produces embryos, which produce stem cells.

In cloning, also called somatic cell nuclear transfer, the nucleus of an egg is removed. Then the nucleus of a donor cell is inserted into the egg to produce an embryo that is in effect an identical twin of the donor. It is stimulated to grow.

Like in vitro fertilization, cloning is another way to produce an embryo outside the body. In the course of development, the cloned embryo, like any other embryo, produces stem cells, the master builder cells of the body.

Some folks want to harvest stem cells from early-stage embryos, which destroys them. That’s not ethical – treating new human beings as disposable raw material for research.

Some misstatements are accidents. Some are intended to mislead the public. Make sure you get all the accurate facts on stem cell research.

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